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Sending food back because you did not like what the server recommended?

Is this appropriate?


YOU: What do you recommend?

SERVER: The trout is a wonderful dish, just lovely.

YOU: Ok, I'll have the trout.

[Trout arrives, you try the trout, and hate it.]

YOU: I don't like the trout.

SERVER: I'm very sorry to hear that.

YOU: Can I have something else instead?

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  1. IMO, no. Food is subjective and if a person takes advice from a stranger, they have ownership in that. There are no guarantees...unless the trout was spoiled it should not be replaced free of charge. The waiter did not force anyone to choose the trout...it was a suggestion.

    People need to learn to take responsibilities for their own decisions and stop trying to find someone to pawn responsibility onto in the name of getting something for free.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Janet from Richmond

      Absolutely agree. If you choose to order the trout based on the solicited (really, even unsolicited, it shouldn't matter) opinion of the waiter, and you don't like it, then if/when you go back to the restaurant, just don't order the trout again. You don't get it free. Now, the restaurant may offer you something else if they see you aren't eating your entree...fine. But it should by no means be expected. We all know how much taste buds vary.

      1. re: iluvtennis

        Agree with the previous posters. It's one meal. Don't order it again, eat what you can from the meal that you enjoy, have a dessert and call it done.

        1. re: iluvtennis

          Almost any restaurant would prefer to change your entree than have you displeased. While on a tour of the CIA in Hyde Park NY the tour guide said that if you were dissatisfied you would tell 2 friends and they tell 2 friends, let alone a chowhound.

          1. re: phantomdoc

            Not necessarily....some people are overly critical. And among my friends and families and even casual acquaintances, I'm very much "consider the source". IMO restaurants shouldn't have to conduct their business in fear of unjust retaliation.

        2. re: Janet from Richmond

          Totally concur. If I was the customer and that happened to me, I'd order something else (if I couldn't bear to eat the trout) but pay for both the trout and the second dish.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            With the amount of food that restaurants throw away most would rather you be happy and return with more money for a nice experience.

            1. re: phantomdoc

              More money? I believe anyone who would send back the trout in this context would probably ask for some kind of compensation during a subsequent visit. And they are still going to talk bad about the trout.

              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                By more money I am referring to return visits. Not to order stuff to send back again. Frequently a change of chef will result in a formerly appreciated dish no longer acceptable. For a restaurant that nothing is good anymore you do not go back. If a few items are prepared differently and not to your liking, hell, just ask them to change it.

                1. re: phantomdoc

                  My point is that the request IMO is unreasonable and probably not the only unreasonable request in their portfolio. My rhetorical question to the restaurant is whether or not this is someone they want to appease in order to come back...only the restaurant can determine that.

              2. re: phantomdoc

                But if I order something that isn't too my liking, that doesn't necessarily mean I won't return, especially if the second dish is good.

                And then you have the possible consequences of this thread, where you read that some people never send anything back for this reason:


                That is not to say I never send anything back. I have sent things back because it was cooked improperly (raw chicken, steak well done when I asked for it rare), seafood went bad, etc (and I'll ask nicely as opposed to rudely telling the waiter that the food isn't fit for a dog). But if it's due to an issue of taste, then I assume that responsibility.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  I only send back something if it's spoiled (like seafood) or if a steak is substationally overcooked and I'm only with my immediate family. IMO the person who sends back the trout because they did not like it and the waiter suggested it IS the person who constantly finds reasons to send stuff back.

              3. re: Miss Needle

                and in any good restaurant, if you ordered something else, they'd surely inquire as to what the cause for additional entree was, and most likely take the original dish off of your bill...

              4. re: Janet from Richmond

                Agreed. You're under no obligation to listen to the server and they might enjoy completely different things than you. Why on earth would someone trust the opinion of someone that they don't know given that, as you put it - food is subjective. I don't always even trust the opinions of people that I know well ;)

                If you order it, you're responsible for it, unless they screwed something up.

              5. NO!

                If there is something wrong with the dish - bad ingredients, over/under cooked, etc. then yes.

                If it simply is not my cup of tea - no. My choice, my problem.

                I tend to order the more unusual items on a menu. I'm a good cook, so these items often introduce to me flavors or techniques that I don't usually work with. Some times they are good, sometimes not so good...If I want safe, there are usually safe choices available. I like a small gamble - if I loose, it's just one meal. If I win, it is usually "wow"!

                1. Nope as well. You ordered the dish and if the fish is bad or badly prepared (i.e. raw or charred) then you can send back. But you took the advice of a stranger and youhave different tastes. Heck there are times when jfood recommends something for mrs jfood and he winds up eating it and enjoying it.

                  Jfood used to narrow to two entrees and then ask the server's advice, but stopped that nonsense many years ago. Sometimes there is a little too much trout in the kitchen that has to get moved..."Move the trout" from the MOD.

                  1. if it was poorly done, send it back. if you just don't
                    "like it" -- man up!

                    1. I agree with the majority of the other posts. If you don't like it, don't send it back- everyone has different taste in food. If it was not properly prepared- e.g. undercooked, found a hair, really really cold etc, then send it back. At least you tried it and know you don't like it, so next time you're there you are more aware. The waiter part of it doesn't count. They just suggested it, you had a choice to take it or not- they didn't force you to order it. At the end you learned a lesson in not ordering trout at that restaurant and can try something else if you go back.

                      1. I don't think so either, unless there was something objectively wrong with the dish (like old fish, under/over cooked, etc.). I think there are only a couple of times when it's okay to send something back because you subjectively don't like it and expect a replacement at no charge: (1) if the resto/server offers that up front: I've had servers suggest a particular dish and when I hesitate the server has said, "try it and if you don't like it, we'll bring you something else." If that's the deal up front, then I think it's fine to be honest and tell them you don't like it and want something else (but personally I would have to *really* not like it to send it back). (2) if the part you don't like about the dish was not disclosed on the menu: I ordered a planked salmon once that came out with a candy-coating (not kidding - it was like they'd build a candy shell around the fish). The description on the menu made no mention of the sweetness and if it had, I would never have ordered it because that's not how I like my salmon. I explained that to the server (and later the manager) politely, and they were fine with taking it back and making me a different planked salmon sans candy-coating.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: akq

                          I bet your's was not the first complaint on that candy-coated fish, lol. That sounds extremely odd! What kind of candy was it?

                          1. re: iluvtennis

                            I think it was just a brown sugar rub that turned into a solid coating in the cooking process. Yuck.

                        2. Two possible scenarios

                          1. It really isn't my cup of tea, but I go ahead and finish it - after all I ordered it.

                          2. It is really vile, i just can't stand the flavor. So i leave the entree there and work slowly on the sides.

                          Hopefully in scenario 2 the alert waitstaff notices and asks me, politely but directly if there is something wrong. I don't tell them what I really think, but say "its just not what I expected" or something innocuous. The waitstaff immediately offer to replace the item with something else. that's the restaurant im gonna go back to (and tip well at).

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            #2 happened to me exactly last week. I ordered a "Parisien Club" special from a pub I frequent, and it sounded nice enough - French bread, brie, smoked ham and smoked pulled turkey. When I got the dish, the bread was soggy from sitting on top of an overly dressed salad, the French stick was only cut half way through so all the sandwich innards were falling out, and the quality of the ingredients was completely sub-par for the restaurant's usual food - no pulled turkey, just some cold sliced deli meat and rock hard cold brie.

                            I ate the salad and the server asked me if anything was wrong. I never, ever complain but since they asked.. I said, "I just didn't like it". Both the waitress and manager insisted I order something else on the house, but I felt bad because ultimately the meal was my choice and I said so.. and the soggy bread took away my appetite anyway. Wasn't charged for the dish at least, but I left a generous tip because I still felt bad.

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              why wouldn't you tell them what you really think?

                              1. re: thew

                                saying "it isn't what i expected" is more likely to get a positive reaction than "wtf is that $%*+ " after a second or third question I would probably be able to give a more concise and useful comment i.e.: "i didn't understand that nato was fermented beans".... etc.

                            2. The kindest thing you can do for the restaurant is let them know you are not pleased. They are in business to please people if they are smart they will want to change your experience to one where you leave the restaurant very well fed and very happy. Chances are if you have a pleasant experience you will share this experience with others. Word of mouth is the best advertising and bad word of mouth will kill a place and fast.

                              1. No, no, no, no, no ... no.

                                A local restaurant is closing soon. I was curious too see what people on another food forum thought of it. One review was revolting. The food wasn't too the posters taste and they argued until the restaurant gave them a refund. They still decided to trash the place in a food forum. The sense of entitlement was just obnoxious.

                                Let the server know it wasn't what you liked. If they decide to comp you fine. If not, fine .. don't go back.

                                1. not in this circumstance. However, if I wanted the server's recommendation, I'd ask for more information than just, 'it's just lovely'. After that, instead of 'ok, I'll have the trout', my next question would be, 'can you tell me more about how it is prepared and what the ingredients are? Is there tarragon in it? (I dislike tarragon). Are there bananas in it? (I never eat bananas). Is it fried? (I prefer trout grilled). Well, you get the idea...if server says no tarragon and it comes back with tarragon, absolutely I will send it back. But if I forget to ask, I will not send it back, no, unless it is burnt, or raw, or improperly cooked.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    I agree with you, susan. "It's lovely" just isn't enough info for me. I ordered tilapia at a seafood chain restaurant, because my friend said I would probably like it, knowing that I am not a big time seafood eater. I got it, had a few bites and didn't care for it at all. I didn't send it back, but I did order a small appetizer and ate more biscuits! Now when I eat with this friend I get her to order what she thinks I will like and if I do then I order it.

                                  2. No, I wouldn't send it back in this scenario. Different people just have different tastes & that's ok. For many years when I was a server & customers asked me for a recommendation, I always asked them what they liked or what looked good to them. I was lucky to work at fabulous places where everything really was wonderful however everyone has personal preferences. Its funny you mentioned trout. I just don't care for it yet it was a signiture dish at one place where I worked & I would never recommend it unless the customer told me they loved trout.

                                    1. Ages ago, I read an interview with... I want to say Eric Ripert but it may well have been Danny Meyer. He said, adamantly, that a restaurant is in the business of pleasing customers and serving them food they'll enjoy. If you don't like a dish, for whatever reason, no matter if the waiter recommended it or you chose it on your own, you should send it back and ask for a replacement. So know that there is at least one (famous, well-regarded) guy out there who will support you if you decide to do this.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: small h

                                        When you give it some thought it is the only solution that make sense. This way the restaurant has an opportunity to make it right and thus keep a customer. Yes a restaurant is in the business of pleasing customers and serving them food they'll enjoy. Any business must get and keep customers. It is just that simple.

                                      2. If the waiter asks, I would never be afraid to say I didn't like the dish and probably why. But in this situation it would be up to them to try and make it right. I wouldn't ask for a replacement, but would take it if offered.

                                        That said, I would never take a waiter's recommendation anyway. I don't know their motive for recommending it.